- Votre appareil photo
- Votre enthousiasme enfantin
- Une batterie externe (pour recharger votre téléphone la nuit sans électricité)
- Un livre ou un carnet
- Vos chaussures de randonnée
- Un coupe-vent
- Du vin
De mon coeur au vôtre,
Imaginez vous endormir dans un phare sur une petite île où vous n'êtes qu'un tout petit point dans le monde, accompagné toute la journée de chants d'oiseaux, d'un vent maritime et du son doux de l'eau du fleuve contre les rochers. Imaginez un jour où votre perception du temps ne dépend plus que du soleil et de la marée, où le ciel nocturne est plus lumineux qu'en ville et où vos respirations sont plus profondes qu'elles ne l'ont été depuis très longtemps.
Sur cette petite île du Bas Saint-Laurent, dans la province canadienne du Québec, vous serez sans doute charmé par le paysage maritime et vous aurez un bel aperçu de la vie que menaient les gardiens de phare au XIXe siècle.
En face de Rivière-du-Loup, cet archipel enchanteur est composé de trois petites îles: Le Gros Pot, Le Petit Pot et le Pot du Phare. Plusieurs autres îles se trouvent à proximité, comme l'île aux Lièvres. Le nom "Brandy Pot" en anglais vient des marins qui pensaient que les flaques d’eau accumulées dans les poches sur les rivages rocheux de l’île ressemblaient à du brandy dans des pots.
Historiquement, les conditions de navigation étaient très difficiles et dangereuses dans cette partie du fleuve Saint-Laurent. Les courants étaient forts et les nombreuses petites îles étaient difficiles à voir à la tombée de la nuit et dans la brume. Les naufrages étant beaucoup trop fréquents, la construction de plusieurs phares a été commandée. Le phare du Pot a été construit en 1862 sur le même promontoire rocheux où il se tient fièrement aujourd'hui. Pendant 102 ans, six gardiens se sont succédés pour endurer les hivers rigoureux, les vents violents et les conditions météorologiques imprévisibles. Ils ont consacré leur vie à l'entretien quotidien du phare, à maintenir sa lumière au long de chaque nuit et à accueillir les navires. Quel honneur cela a dû être d'être gardien de phare, et quel privilège d'avoir cette vue grandiose devant les yeux au quotidien.
Le phare est tombé en ruine après son abandon en 1964 alors que son éclairage était automatisé et rendu obsolète par une tour de phare en acier moderne construite à quelques mètres du vieux phare. Mais l'île était toujours riche d'oiseaux marins et de végétation, ce qui a amené un groupe de biologistes à s'unir pour préserver cette richesse. Ensemble, ces biologistes ont fondé une société à but non lucratif - la "Société Duvetnor" - qui a progressivement acquis plusieurs îles du Bas-Saint-Laurent et investi dans la conservation de ces refuges d'oiseaux.
L'ancien phare du Pot a été rénové en 1989 selon ses plans architecturaux d'origine et doté d'une nouvelle lanterne. Pour amassser des fonds pour la restauration, la Société Duvetnor a commencé la collecte du duvet des nids des canards éiders de l’île. Le duvet convoité de ces nids a été exporté en Europe, où sa valeur a grimpé en flèche. Pour assurer la durabilité de ces efforts de conservation, le gouvernement du Canada a récemment racheté l’île bien que Duvetnor continue de recevoir des visiteurs dans les trois chambres du phare historique, ainsi que sur l’île aux Lièvres. Les excursions et l'hébergement offerts par Duvetnor servent leur objectif principal de conservation de la faune et flore.
À bord du petit traversier reliant Rivière-du-Loup aux îles, la hauteur des vagues et mon enthousiasme enfantin me donnaient le vertige! À travers les vitres trempées, une structure rouge et blanche apparaissait doucement comme un mirage. J'avais aimé les phares depuis mon enfance et voici l'opportunité d'y passer une nuitée. Deux autres couples étaient à bord du bateau - chaussures de randonnée, appareils photo et vin en main.
Avant de débarquer au phare, notre guide Quentin nous a fait visiter l’archipel en nous présentant les faits historiques et nous donnant un moment pour prendre des photos afin de nous souvenir de ces paysages uniques et charmants.
Une fois arrivés à l’île du Pot, en grimpant la longue rampe menant à la terre ferme, ce sont mes yeux qui ont tout photographié. Le soleil était déjà bas dans le ciel et le phare nous dominait, nous saluant comme il avait salué d'innombrables marins inconnus autrefois. Derrière nous, le fleuve, la côte loin à l'horizon. Autour de nous, des rochers et des arbres ainsi que des fleurs sauvages bercés par le vent. Au-dessus de nos têtes, les mouettes profitaient de l'occasion pour nous rappeler bruyamment que c'est leur territoire ici.
Nos hôtes sympathiques nous ont accueillis chaleureusement et nous ont montré nos chambres coquettes, soigneusement décorées dans l'esprit du siècle dernier. Ils nous ont accordés quelques minutes pour nous installer avant notre randonnée guidée des sentiers de l'île, qui ne sont accessibles qu'après la saison de nidification qui se termine en juillet.
La lumière était magique et nous étions chanceux d'avoir une vue parfaite sur l'horizon puisque les derniers jours avait été extrêmement brumeux. Notre guide a souligné la diversité de la végétation et les petits mystères de l’île, comme une croix plantée au milieu de la forêt.
Mon point de vue préféré était "La Chaloupe", qui m'a immédiatement charmée dans cette douce lumière dorée.
Après notre randonnée, nous avions du temps libre pour nous promener, pour profiter de la belle terrasse ou monter la tour du phare.
Bientôt, c'était l'heure du souper. Nous avons été gâtés avec un souper de quatre services, chaque plat étant préparé avec des ingrédients locaux et des herbes du jardin. Du pain chaud, un plateau de charcuterie et de fromages, une soupe aux carottes et gingembre, du saumon servi sur un lit de riz sauvage et un gâteau au chocolat fait maison pour le dessert.
Pendant que nous mangions, le ciel brillait dans une douzaine de couleurs. Nous avons soupé et ri pendant des heures, les joues fraîches à l'air frais, les épices du repas sur nos lèvres, nos coudes appuyés sur une table que nous partagions avec des visiteurs des quatre coins du monde qui étaient des étrangers il y a à peine quelques heures mais qui maintenant remplissaient nos verres de vin comme si nous étions de vieux amis.
Entre le café et le dernier verre de vin, l'île était recouverte d'un ciel nocturne parfait - une coupole parsemée d'étoiles qui nous faisait oublier Instagram et le boulot, ainsi que toutes les pressions du passé et du futur.
Nous nous sommes endormis facilement, épuisés par l'excitation et par tout ce que nos sens avaient ressenti. Je me suis réveillée au milieu de la nuit et j'ai souri lorsque j'ai découvert que l'électricité avait été coupée (elle est alimentée par l'énergie solaire). Je me sentais rafraîchie par le calme de cette nuit où la seule lumière était celle du phare.
J'ai rejoint les mouettes à 5h du matin pour accueillir ensemble le soleil. Comme je ne suis pas très matinale, assister au coucher du soleil est beaucoup plus réaliste pour moi! Mais quel spectacle pour les sens Je me sentais totalement indigne de cette vue miraculeuse, une étrangère parmi les mouettes qui célébraient vivement la promesse de ce nouveau jour.
Duvetnor doit savoir que l’air frais et les levers du soleil nous affament! Pour remédier à cela, ils servent non pas un mais DEUX petits déjeuners! Une colation légère de fruits et de croissants frais est servi à 6h, suivi d'un brunch d'œufs et de saucisses à 8h. Entre les deux, j'ai profité du temps libre pour retourner à "La Chaloupe", où je suis restée sur les rochers à observer les oiseaux et la lumière matinale. J'aime toujours revenir aux endroits qui m'inspirent pour voir comment ils changent au fil des heures et des marées. Au seuil de ce paysage, je n'ai pas vu le temps passer.
Au moment de dire au revoir au phare et à ce paysage, j'ai senti mon coeur pincer. Je regardais les six nouveaux visiteurs débarquer, leurs yeux ronds avec le même enthousiasme qu'on avait ressenti la veille. C'était comme sortir d'un film au cinéma et vouloir s'exclamer: "C'était si bon!" mais s'abstenir pour ne rien gâcher pour eux.
En fait, il peut sembler que j'ai beaucoup partagé avec vous ici, mais j'ai été consciente de ne rien gâcher pour vous! La vérité, tout simplement, c'est que vous devez aller voir - non, ressentir - tout ça pour vous-même. Visitez le site web de Duvetnor pour toutes les informations dont vous avez besoin sur les Iles du Pot et l'Ile aux Lièvres. Suivez Duvetnor sur Facebook et Instagram pour avoir de leurs nouvelles.
Si vous réservez un séjour sur ces îles, voici 7 choses à ne pas oublier:
- Votre appareil photo
- Votre enthousiasme enfantin
- Une batterie externe (pour recharger votre téléphone la nuit sans électricité)
- Un livre ou un carnet
- Vos chaussures de randonnée
- Un coupe-vent
- Du vin
J'espère que vous avez apprécié cette visite virtuelle de cet endroit si précieux!
Connaissez-vous cette région du Québec? Aimez-vous les phares? Laissez-moi un commentaire!
De mon coeur au vôtre,
Imagine sleeping in a lighthouse on a tiny island where you feel like you are just a dot in the vast world. Imagine your ears being filled all day long with birdsong, wind and the sound of water spilling over mossy rocks. Imagine a day where your conception of time shifts to depend only on the sun and the tide, where the night sky is brighter and where your breaths are deeper than they have been in a long while.
On this little island in the middle of the St-Lawrence river in the Canadian province of Quebec, you'll be charmed by marine life and get a glimpse of what it was like to be a lighthouse keeper in the 19th century.
Across from Rivière-du-Loup, this enchanting archipelago is made up of three small islands: Le Gros Pot, Le Petit Pot and le Pot du Phare. Several other islands can be found nearby, like Hare Island (Ile aux Lièvres). The name for Brandy Pot island comes from sailors who thought the puddles of water pooled in pockets on the island's rocky shores looked like brandy.
Historically, the sailing conditions were challenging in this area of the St-Lawrence river; the currents were strong and the many small islands were difficult to see in the night and thick fog. Shipwrecks were far too common, so the construction of several lighthouses was commissioned. The Brandy Pot lighthouse was built in 1862 on the same rocky promontory where it proudly stands today. For 102 years, six keepers took turns enduring the harsh winters, strong winds and unpredictable weather. They committed their lives to the daily upkeep of the lighthouse, to shining its light through each long night, and guiding ships to safety. What an honor it must have been to be a lighthouse keeper, and what a privilege to have this grandiose view to call home.
The lighthouse fell into disrepair after it was abandoned in 1964, when its light was automated and later rendered obsolete by a modern steel lighthouse tower built a few meters away. But the island was still rich with marine birds and vegetation, which led a group of biologists to join efforts in its preservation. Together, these biologists founded the non-profit organization Société Duvetnor, which gradually acquired several islands in the lower St-Lawrence and invested in the conservation of these bird sanctuaries.
The aged Brandy Pot Lighthouse was renovated in 1989 according to its original architectural plans and fitted with a new lantern. What helped raise funds for its restoration was the Duvetnor organization's collection of down from the nests of the island's eider ducks each spring. The coveted down from these nests was exported to Europe where its value soared. To ensure the sustainability of these conservation efforts, the Government of Canada recently acquired the island from Duvetnor, though the non-profit organization continues to receive visitors in the three rooms of the historical lighthouse, as well as on the neighboring Hare Island (Ile aux Lièvres). Duvetnor's excursions and lodging serves their primary goal of wildlife conservation.
Aboard the small ferry crossing over to the archipelago from Rivière-du-Loup, both the height of the waves and my childish excitement had butterflies fluttering wildly in my stomach. Smiling widely, I gripped the metal bar in front of my seat and watched through the soaked windows as a red and white structure slowly grew into view. I have loved lighthouses for as long as I could remember, and here was my chance to stay in one overnight. Two other couples were aboard the boat - hiking shoes, cameras and wine in tow.
Before disembarking at the lighthouse, our guide Quentin gave us a tour of the archipelago, recounting historical facts to six faces who listened intently, punctuating some of his sentences with a shutter press to record these unique landscapes we felt so privileged to witness.
When we docked at the lighthouse island and climbed up the long, steep ramp towards solid ground, my mind did all the photographing. The sun was low in the sky and the lighthouse was towering over us, greeting us as it had greeted countless unknown sailors in the past. To our backs, the river, the coastline far beyond our view. Around us, layers of rocks and trees and purple wildflowers, swaying in the fierce wind as though waving us on. Above us, seagulls making their presence known, taking an opportunity to remind us that they are in command here.
Our gracious Duvetnor hosts welcomed us warmly and showed us to our cozy rooms, thoughtfully decorated in a way that grounded us in the history of the place. We were given a few minutes to get settled and then taken on a walking tour of the island's trails, which are accessible only after the nesting season ends in July.
The light was magical and we felt blessed to have a perfect view of the horizon, as it had been extremely foggy the day before. Our guide took us along the paths to different lookouts, pointing out the different vegetation and various mysteries of the island, like a cross planted in the middle of the forest.
My favorite lookout point was "La Chaloupe", which won my heart in that light and won it over again the next morning shortly after sunrise.
After our walk, we had free time to walk around, sit on the terrace or climb to the top of the lighthouse tower.
Soon, it came time for dinner to be served. We were spoiled with a four-course meal, each dish prepared with local ingredients and fresh garden herbs (in this case, their "garden" being a whole island!). Warm bread, a charcuterie & cheese board, ginger carrot soup, salmon on a bed of wild rice, and a homemade chocolate cake for dessert.
As we sat in the dining room, the sky put on a symphony of colors to remind us of how blessed we were, in case we had forgotten. We dined for hours, our cheeks cool from the fresh air, the spice of the meal lingering on our lips, our elbows propped on a table we shared with visitors from across the globe who were strangers just hours ago but now were topping up our glasses of wine as though we were old friends.
We bundled up in all our layers to brave the wind and stepped onto the terrace. Somewhere between the coffee and the last glass of wine, the island had become draped with the perfect night sky - a speckled dome that made us forget Instagram and work and all the pressures of past and future.
We fell asleep early, suddenly wiped by the excitement and all that our senses had experienced. I woke up in the middle of the night and smiled when I discovered that the electricity had been turned off (as it is solar-powered). I felt refreshed by the stillness of the night and of my mind.
I woke up to join the seagulls at 5am to welcome the sun. I have only caught a handful of sunrises in my life so far. As I'm not a morning person, witnessing sunsets is a much more realistic goal! But what a treat, a feast for the eyes and ears, as I stood there feeling totally undeserving of that miraculous view, watching as the seagulls loudly celebrated the promise of a brand new day.
Duvetnor must know that fresh air and early sunrises make you hungry! To remedy this, they serve not one but two breakfasts! A light breakfast of fruits and fresh croissants is served at 6am, followed by a more substantial breakfast with eggs and meats at 8am. In between, and afterwards, you're free to enjoy the paths or laze around the lighthouse. I took the opportunity to return to "La Chaloupe" again, where I sat on the rocks for a while and watched the birds go about their morning. I always love to return to the spots that inspire me to see how they change with the changing light and changing tides, and this little gem of a place was no exception.
When it came time to leave, to walk down that same ramp and say farewell to those views, I felt a pinch in my heart. I watched as the new set of six visitors disembarked, their faces looking around in awe as we had done. It was like coming out of a movie at the theater, wanting to exclaim, "It was so good!" but refraining so as not to spoil anything for them.
In fact, it may seem like I've shared a lot with you here, but I have been conscious not to spoil anything for you. The truth of the matter is, you must go and see - no, feel - this for yourself. Visit the Duvetnor website for all the information you need on Iles du Pot and Ile aux Lièvres. You can also follow them on Facebook or Instagram for updates.
If you do book a stay on these islands, here are 7 things you may want to pack:
- Your camera
- Your childish enthusiasm
- A battery pack (to charge your phone at night without electricity)
- Something to read
- Hiking shoes
- A windbreaker and/or hoodie
I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of a place that truly won my heart!
Have you been here or somewhere similar? Leave a comment! I would love to hear from you.
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Some experiences make you feel like a child again.
Gazing up at the sky in wonder at the International Balloon Festival of St Jean sur Richelieu, I felt like I was six, with cotton candy on my fingers, a clip barely holding my messy sunkissed hair, a wide smile frozen on my face and a giddy fluttering sensation in my belly. What a wondrous thing, to be launched into the sky at dusk with only a general sense of direction, knowing full well that the winds could change at any moment, not knowing at all where or how exactly the landing would take place.
That is the fate of some hundred hot air balloons of different colors, patterns and shapes that are sent into the sky with their passengers twice a day at this festival, at the mercy of the strength and direction of the winds. As the announcer explained to all of us gathered on site to watch the spectacular launch around 6pm, winds tend to be higher in speed at ground level than at high altitudes, and tend to drop as the sun dips in the sky when it sets. While they can send up balloon probes and measure the winds with fancy instruments, there still remains an element of uncertainty and surprise that the actual hot air balloons can only experience directly once high over our heads.
It takes great skill and experience to inflate and man these balloons. Some of the special shaped balloons like animals or characters are much thicker in material and trickier to fill. It is astonishing to watch them come to life in a vast field as they slowly grow from folded up parachutes tucked inside little trucks until the flag is finally waved. An orange flag means they are testing the winds and will reach a decision about the flight path soon. A green flag means the balloons are ready for liftoff! The "pursuit" crews climb into their trucks to follow the balloons to wherever they land. And so the balloons are pulled and held and filled and fueled, until suddenly they glide up, up and away gracefully over hundreds of waving hands and shrieking voices aged 6 through 60.
The announcer animates the take-off, introducing sponsors and presenting facts, all of which makes the experience even more captivating.
And though you know they are gliding steadily through space, the balloons somehow look suspended in time, hanging like teardrops, like wishes, like dreams about to come true.
You look up, making a memory, recording the perfectly orchestrated scene of balloons, birds and the gentle breeze in the setting sun. You feel connected through an invisible portal to all those who gathered to witness hot air balloon flights in history, going all the way back to Paris in 1783.
When the balloons are far on the horizon, there is still much fun to be had, with vast fair grounds, virtual reality demonstrations, food trucks, lounge areas and a live concert on a big stage. The park is full without being crowded, and everyone seems happy. I can't think of a better way to spend a mid-August evening.
Visit the International des Montgolfières website for more details.
Have you ever watched a hot-air balloon take flight? Have you ever been on one? Share your experience in a comment below!
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Since I was young, I have been restless, curious and drawn to certain places around the world without knowing why. Whenever the opportunity arose to travel and even live abroad for studies and work, I jumped at it with my heart thumping in my chest and a notebook (and camera) ready to record my observations and feelings.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when my "normal" life with endometriosis (then still undiagnosed) unraveled into symptoms that were too much to bear on a daily basis, let alone to carry with me on a trip. My nomadic lifestyle and, to a large degree, my sense of self, grappled with the reality that I could not travel freely with my condition, which needed treatment and management continuously on a physical, mental and emotional level.
Travel is a privilege and is good for the soul. But chronic conditions like endometriosis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, PCOS, Crohn's, or celiac disease (only to name a few) require lifestyle accommodations and mindset shifts on a daily basis, which can make travel feel daunting.
Here are my 5 tips for traveling with a chronic illness. These are the strategies I personally use as someone with debilitating endometriosis and associated conditions. Whether I travel with loved-ones who know about my condition or with acquaintances who have no idea, I prioritize these 5 practices to make sure that I am comfortable, peaceful and ready to feel inspired by my journey.
1. Have all the essentials
The basics cannot be underestimated!
Having travel health insurance and a flexible cancellation policy is important and definitely not a waste of money. Knowing that you are covered in case of unexpected circumstances can help reduce anxiety surrounding your health condition, making your trip far more enjoyable.
Make sure to have your pain / prescription medications filled for the duration of your stay. It could also help to have them in their original packaging or at least with the accompanying label that describes their generic pharmaceutical name and dosage, in case this information is required by a physician or pharmacist caring for you abroad.
Before you pack, make a checklist of everything you use at home to manage your symptoms and flare-ups. Be sure not to forget these essentials, whether it is your favorite loose clothing (hey there, #endobelly), your more reliable footwear, a hot water bottle or heat pack, lavender or other soothing essential oils, CBD, specific foods, bath salts, etc.
In short, do everything you can to feel at home when you travel.
2. Know yourself
If you're like me, chances are you've been called "hypersensitive" or something similar over the course of your medical (or even personal) history. Well, I've learned that the beauty of being so "hypersensitive" is being totally in tune with my body, its signals and its needs. Checking in with yourself regularly - not only when symptoms surface - is the best tool to keeping triggers at bay and fully enjoy your trip.
What foods or behaviors trigger flare-ups in your symptoms?
At what point in the calendar are you vulnerable or susceptible to pain or fatigue?
What are the non-negotiables in your daily or weekly self-care routine?
Know your rhythm, your triggers, your body's signals and your favorite strategies for taking a step back and prioritizing self-care.
There is nothing in the rulebook that says you cannot adopt all of your approaches while you travel!
3. Choose your surroundings carefully
There can be a lot of guilt associated with living with a chronic illness, but it's important to train ourselves not to feel guilty for tending to our physical, emotional and mental needs. Choosing an accommodation that will support our comfort is an important part of traveling happily.
If you feel you might need a private room, a bathroom or a bathtub, look for an accommodation with those criteria. If swimming or warm, sunny climates help ease your pain, choose destinations that will do you good! Look up the surroundings of your accommodation - know where the nearest pharmacy or supermarket is, for example.
While in transit, pace yourself. Give yourself enough time so you don't have to rush or strain. Finally, don't be shy to ask for assistance, whether it means getting a lift somewhere, or asking the airline staff for extra support.
4. Make time for recharging
Travel can be so exciting, invigorating and exhausting - it's easy to forget yourself and to neglect your downtime when you're on the go. If you're the type to follow an itinerary, then please schedule REST into your itinerary!
Guilt-free time to relax and recharge will make your travel experiences more positive and more memorable than if you take that time to cram in yet another destination or activity.
5. Practice forgiveness
If the way you are feeling "gets in the way" of something you had planned to see or do, please don't be hard on yourself. I know that feeling all too well. Truthfully, this is still something I struggle with personally. Forgive your body for slamming on the breaks. Go one extra step and thank it for doing so, because it means it is articulating its needs, and maybe - just maybe - you will discover something special in staying still.
Got a personal strategy to share? Please do! I'll see you in the comments!
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International travel is super exciting but also requires some preparation to ensure your experience is safe, hassle-free and inspiring.
An important aspect of "traveling smart" is to devote some thought to how you will manage your money while you're abroad.
These tips may seem like common sense, but sometimes we get carried away with everything we have to do before our trip, and our departure date sneaks up on us without having had the time to deal with money matters.
Here are 13 money tips for your peace of mind while you travel internationally.
1. Never change money at the airport
If you have to change money at an airport, it likely means you're rushed, unprepared and desperate. And those are precisely the ingredients that cook up the exorbitant rates that airport exchange offices will "offer" you!
2. Know the exchange rate in advance
To understand how far your money will go and how much things actually cost, it helps to familiarize yourself with the local currency in advance. You can also download a quick currency converter app. Look up the exchange rate before you change your money so you know what to expect in return and know to feel alarmed by hidden commissions, transaction fees or wrong calculations. Stress, numbers, jet-leg, crowds and a foreign language can lead you to feel flustered and inattentive, so better to be as prepared as you can be.
3. Don't store all your cash in one place
If you are forced to travel with a decent amount of cash, certainly don't carry it all in one place... and certainly not in your back pocket. This would easily be a pickpocket's dream and your nightmare! If traveling with someone, split the money up between you. If you have a secure place to leave it that is not ON you, that is a safer bet. If you have no choice but to carry it on you, be sure to hide it in different secure areas of your backpack, purse and/or on your person, so that it is not vulnerable to loss or theft in one shot. Some nifty items have been invented over the years to hide banknotes, so you can be creative as well as strategic!
4. Have enough cash for your first few days (and emergencies)
Even if your trip is the spontaneous, "go with the flow" kind, be sure to have enough cash on you for your first few days abroad, as well as for emergencies. Research where you can get extra money in advance, but plan for the unexpected.
5. Ask for small denominations
When you exchange your money, ask for smaller denominations as a general rule. If you have a few large denominations, break them in reputable places where you are not in a rush or surrounded by a crowd (and be mindful of the change you get back). Smaller banknotes are also a good idea to stash in a safe place in case of emergencies.
6. Carry more than one bank card
Even if you foresee paying cash almost everywhere you go, it's a good idea to have more than one bank card on you, in case one gets demagnetized, lost, stolen, frozen by your bank or swallowed up by an unfriendly ATM machine.
7. Keep your bank cards separate (and know how to report them lost)
Carry your bank cards separately to avoid losing them in one fell swoop if your wallet is lost or stolen. In case you don't have data or internet access, make sure you have the phone numbers of where to report your card lost or stolen, and that you have the information required by your bank to identify yourself and your account.
8. Know your cards' usage fees
Your bank probably charges a fee to withdraw from foreign ATMs. It's a good idea to know any special fees that may be incurred on your account before you travel. If you use your credit card to withdraw cash, note that it will charge you a cash advance fee as well as interest on the amount immediately, until you pay your card's balance in full.
9. Notify your bank before you travel
Notifying your bank / credit card company of your travel prior to your departure is a good idea to avoid their fraud department freezing your card as a precaution when they see frequent or large transactions being made abroad. Notify them of your dates and destinations so they know the irregular activity is not fraudulent.
10. Choose a secure ATM for your withdrawals
If you're planning on withdrawing cash abroad, be smart about when, where and how you do it. Choose an ATM that is not in a sketchy or poorly-lit location. Make sure to be discrete and strategic when divvying up the money you withdraw into your different "stash" areas, and opt for making the withdrawal on your way back to your accommodation rather than on your way out for the day, so that you are not carrying a ton of cash everywhere you go.
11. Familiarize yourself with the currency
Knowing what the country's banknotes and coins look like will facilitate your life when you're abroad, whether you're about to pay for something in a line-up or whether you want to double-check what you received as change. When money looks foreign to you, it is surprisingly easy to confuse similar-looking banknotes.
12. Check your statements online
Using a secure internet connection (i.e., not the free public WiFi), make a point to periodically check your bank statements online. Create an entry in your calendar to remind yourself when your credit card is due, and take that opportunity to make sure there are no suspicious transactions on your account. Before notifying your bank of what you think might be a fraudulent transaction, take an extra moment to make sure it really was not something you purchased yourself - sometimes establishments come up under a different legal name on your statement.
13. Use as much change as you can
It's tempting to always pay with banknotes for the sake of ease and simplicity, especially to avoid counting coins when we're in a rush or in a crowded place. Unfortunately, that might mean you'll end up with a ton of coins that will have no value to you when you return home, because currency exchange places and banks rarely accept coins in return. One strategy would be to count your coins before you leave your accommodation and to organize them so you can easily pay for your coffee or fruit with a chunk of pre-counted change.
Was this helpful? Got another money tip to share? Leave a comment below.
I always love to hear from you!
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Yearning for a trip to Italy soon?
You may be looking at awe-inspiring destinations like the Italian Riviera, the Amalfi coast or Tuscany, but have you considered a trip to Italy's idyllic heel instead?
In the southern region of Puglia and its Salento peninsula, your senses will be overwhelmed and delighted with sweeping coastlines, stunning beaches, labyrinthian old towns, savory local delicacies and memorable wines. You'll ease into a whole other rhythm of Italian life (forget the bustle of Milano and Rome!) and, if you do it right, you'll discover gems that many Italians have yet to explore.
Italy's heel has a longer coastline than other regions of Italy's mainland, and is bordered by both the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. Sure, Puglia is home to well-known destinations like its capital Bari, the baroque city of Lecce nicknamed 'Florence of the South' and to the iconic town of Alberobello known for its conical trulli houses. But what makes the region unforgettable is all the places, treasures and feelings in between... and I am here to tell you about them!
In its whitewashed towns and enchanting countryside dotted with millions of olive trees, I promise you will be tempted to stay... or, at the very least, to make plans (almost immediately) to return.
Here are 14 spots that should be on your itinerary if visiting Puglia, Italy.
Bari is the capital of the southern region of Puglia and is served by one of two international airports in the region (the other being Brindisi). The Gargano promontory (the "spur" of the boot), its rocky coastline and sprawling national park lies to the north of Bari, as does the picturesque town of Trani.
Bari itself is captivating and quite underrated compared to other Italian cities.
A port city with two harbors, it is a hub for many passenger ferries to Croatia, Greece, Albania or Montenegro. It is also a vibrant university town with a modern center boasting elegant shopping streets and museums. But what is most evocative about Bari is surely its authentic old town and this stark contrast between old and new. Strolling the maze of narrow cobbled lanes, you'll stumble upon one picturesque piazza after another and architectural marvels like the Basilica of S. Nicola, the Cattedrale di S. Sabino and its imposing steeple, the Teatro Petruzzelli and the impossible-to-miss Castello. But you'll also stumble upon several generations of locals making orecchiette pasta by hand in the street in front of their homes, their front door wide open and their children playing nearby. You'll find yourself inadvertently interrupting soccer games in the streets and squares, or conversations between neighbors shouting across balconies overhead. You'll order an espresso and find yourself watching the card game at the neighboring table, wondering whether your grandfather would be friends with these gentlemen if he lived here.
If you travel to Bari, please enjoy my 3 highlights for me: (1) Take a sunset walk and have a drink on the city's medieval ramparts, (2) spend some time in Piazza Mercantile (look up to take it all in), and (3) watch the fishermen at work at Porto Vecchio and along the Lungomare waterfront promenade.
2. Polignano a Mare
I dare you to go to Polignano and tell me upon your return that this place did not tug on your heart. (Challenge accepted?)
Polignano is only about 30 minutes from Bari and easily reachable by train.
Polignano is the perfect setting for slow wandering and sea-gazing. Perched atop limestone cliffs overlooking deep blue waters, Polignano has several beautiful lookout points that will make your heart pound. Certainly don't miss the Balconata sul Mare. The town has a Greek feeling to its architecture and color palette. Take time to find the charming Vicolo della Poesia with a staircase featuring poetry by Bari writer "Guido Il Flâneur". In fact, if you are attentive to your surroundings, you'll find bits of his poetry on doors and walls throughout the old town.
The beach itself (Cala Porto) is small and pebbly, but picturesque. Float on your back and watch the light change on the stone cliffs and its stacked houses. You can rent a bike from Polignano Made in Love and cycle to other nearby beaches and cute towns like San Vito.
And, if you really want to make a memory, go for lunch (or a more formal supper) at the Grotta Palazzese - a restaurant tucked in a cave where you have water spilling in on both sides of its terrace. Quick tip: Be sure to dress adequately (no swimsuits) and warmly, as it can be cool and clammy in the cave, especially after you've been in the hot sun. Also be prepared to spend a LOT for the same "simple" (though extremely fresh) food and wine you've been inexpensively savoring all over Puglia.
Continuing further down the Adriatic coast, Monopoli is basically teleport distance from Polignano, not even 15 minutes away by train!
If you love charming fishing towns and rugged beaches, spending time in Monopoli will do you good! In the morning and evening, enjoy the harbor, the small red lighthouse, the winding streets and the medieval walls surrounding the city. In the afternoon, grab your car or bike to explore nearby beaches, some of them more rugged than others: Cala Porta Vecchia, Cala Cozze, Porto Verde, Cala Paradiso, La Scaletta, Tre Buchi or Porto Marzano.
Remember that public beaches allow you to plop down your towel and umbrella freely on the sand or cliffs, whereas private beaches ("lido") will ask you to rent a spot for the day.
Ostuni is nicknamed "The White City" and is incredibly gorgeous both from afar and within its winding, inclined streets. Stacked upon a hilltop, Ostuni keeps a watchful eye over the Adriatic and the vast olive groves below. If you love narrow alleyways, dead-ends that open up onto secret courtyards and secret gardens, pretty doors and windows, and whitewashed houses that look even paler against the blue of the Sun and Sea, then Ostuni will undoubtedly enchant you. Climb to the top to see the Duomo or head to the lookout on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II for panoramic views of the city.
Ostuni would be a great choice as a base for a few days so that you can explore the surrounding towns, the masserie farms and the stunning beaches closeby.
Staying the night in a masseria and booking a supper there will allow you to connect more deeply with the land, the traditions and the passionate people who are so beautifully committed to preserving and promoting nature and this culture.
A UNESCO world heritage site, it would be difficult to complete a Puglia itinerary without a stop in Alberobello. While these cone-shaped limestone "trulli" buildings are scattered throughout the region, the dense cluster of them in Alberobello is what brings visitors to this town. Today, the trulli have been converted into restaurants, souvenir shops and even accommodations. That's right - you can stay in a trullo overnight if that's something on your bucket list!
Alberobello can feel overwhelmingly touristy, but it is worth seeing as it is quite unique. If you want to step away from the touristic center, explore the Rione Aia Piccola area. From there, you could also enjoy views over Alberobello.
If you visited Polignano and Ostuni first, you may have given either of them the title of "prettiest town in Puglia". And then you come to Locorotondo, and suddenly you're tempted to reassign the title!
Quiet and slow, Locorotondo is the perfect place to spend a few hours taking a mindful stroll, taking in the vista of the surrounding countryside, and savoring an outdoor lunch with a glass of their renowned sparking white wine at one of the welcoming trattorie in the old town.
7. Martina Franca
Larger and busier than its neighboring villages, Martina Franca is another town in the Valle d'Itria that is definitely worth your time. Surrounded by fortifications and several preserved Renaissance and Baroque gates, Martina Franca's elegant architecture, pretty streets and wide squares will inspire you.
Look up, look around and look back to take in all the beautiful balconies, archways and shutters. Watch and listen to locals as they go about their day. Let your eyes flit over the symphony of Baroque details of the Basilica di S. Martino and the Chiesa di San Domenico.
Every summer, Martina Franca hosts the Festival della Valle d'Itria opera festival.
No trip to Puglia is complete without visiting its "big city". Despite its size and elegance, Lecce is laid-back and low-key, perfect for exploring and experiencing at a relaxed pace. Strolling its golden streets, you'll notice that they are plenty of sights to take in, plenty of ornate baroque details to swoon over. You'll encounter several blasts from the past with roman ruins, columns, noteworthy museums and gorgeous city gates around Lecce's old town. Outside the old town's cobblestone lanes, you can unwind in one of the city's spacious parks. There is no shortage of interesting places to eat and drink in Lecce - stay tuned on the blog for a local's recommendations!
If you have time to spare and love authentic experiences, book a day course at The Awaiting Table culinary school. You'll learn hands on how to make orecchiette and several traditional dishes. While you cook and eat, you'll taste regional wine and learn about their intricate personalities. Your senses will thank you!
If you're worried that Lecce is too far inland, do not fret, as the beautiful beaches of San Foca, Torre dell'Orso (with its "due sorelle") and Torre Sant'Andrea are just over a half hour away. At peak season, be prepared for crowds (especially at Torre dell'Orso) and for a sea of "lido" properties offering umbrella and chair rentals, leaving only small patches of "free beach". Still, the rocky scenery and turquoise waters are worth the visit!
It is easy to fall in love with Otranto and want to extend your stay. The large waterfront piazza is a beautiful place to start and end your day. The main city beach is not far to the left of it, but there is also a wonderful place to swim and sunbathe (if you don't mind putting your towel down on rocks or concrete instead of sand) closer to the port. The irregular-shaped Castello and its moat are worth visiting, and provide stunning views over old seafront town. The Cathedral (Santa Maria Annunziata) is famous for its "Tree of Life" mosaic floor, and the Chiesa di San Pietro is a gorgeous little church with Byzantine frescoes. Climb up for breathtaking views of the sunset before you head for supper. After dark, Otranto comes alive with families strolling the promenade until late.
A highlight of my Salento trip was the nearby beach "Baia dei Turchi", which I still dream of on long winter days.
10. Santa Cesarea Terme
Santa Cesarea is not only a beautiful coastal town but most notably home to large thermal baths with healing waters stemming from four grottoes and drawing visitors from all over Italy and beyond.
11. Santa Maria di Leuca
If you love the idea of standing on the southeastern most tip of Italy, where the waters of two seas meet and mingle (Adriatic and Ionian), then a trip down to Santa Maria di Leuca is necessary!
The iconic lighthouse stands next to the Basilica that was built on the site of a Roman temple.
Driving down the coast (from Lecce or Otranto) to Santa Maria di Leuca gives you the opportunity to stop in picturesque places like Castro, Porto Tricase or Porto Ciolo. On the Ionian coast, don't miss the crystal clear waters of Spiaggia di Pescoluse.
The name "Gallipoli" originates from the Greek "Kallipolis" for "beautiful city". And, as you will undoubtedly notice immediately upon arrival, the city certainly lives up to its name!
Gallipoli is a perfect base for exploring the western coast of Italy's heel. The city center is atmospheric and authentic, large enough so you can wander quite a while through its narrow streets or along its seafront perimeter. Brace yourself for ferocious winds! Visit the Castle and head to the nearby fresh fish market for scents and tastes that will linger with you long after you've left.
Its city beach is beautiful and clean, with a gentle curve that makes you feel as though you've stepped right up to the threshold of a painting hanging framed in front of you. Return at sunset to fall in love with the sky and the tide.
Gallipoli is also close to other awe-inspiring beaches along the coast, such as Baia Verde or Punta della Suina with its dunes and wild greenery.
13. Porto Cesareo & Torre Lapillo
West of Lecce, on the Ionian side between Taranto and Gallipoli is a paradise called Porto Cesareo. I hope you're a fan of loose itineraries that leave room for unexpected changes, because the beach may hold you hostage. We extended our stay in Porto Cesareo (as we had also done in Polignano and Otranto) and were put up by a sweet local couple because all the b&bs were already booked for the night!
The long, sandy, shallow beaches with their dunes, islets and reefs are a marine protected area. Head north to Torre Lapillo, a favorite among locals. For more secluded stretches of beach (especially early in the mornings) visit Punta Prosciutto.
Directly across from Porto Cesareo, you'll find a tiny island called Isola dei Conigli (rabbit island). You can take a boat trip there and explore the island's cypress, pine and acacia trees. There is also a public beach on the island.
14. Porto Selvaggio
Just south of Porto Cesareo lies the National park of Porto Selvaggio, a jagged stretch of coastline between three towers (Torre dell'Alto, Torre Uluzzo and Torre Inserraglio) and a beach nestled in a rocky cove. The contrast between the vivid green cliffs and deep blue sea is a feast for the eyes. If traveling there by car, you park on the road and walk the rest of the way, through the dense forest. The protected area is home to many wild animals, different species of birds and varieties of trees. Underwater and exposed caves are of archaeological and paleontological importance due to the remains that have been uncovered. If you love nature, plan a daytrip to this stunning area.
Have you been to Puglia? Is it on your bucket list? Leave a comment and let me know what you think of this list!
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One of the most unexpected and best things about starting my shop was becoming part of a thriving local community of artists and entrepreneurs.
Every show that I participate in or organize with my Collectif Créatif Etsy Montreal crew allows me to meet incredible souls whose creativity, story and raw talent inspires and humbles me. Interacting with members of this community both online and offline at events always leaves me feeling enriched and fortunate.
When Andrea from Andrea Shelley Designs invited me into her studio a couple of weeks ago to take some portrait and lifestyle photos of her and her new line of jewelry, I felt honored to see the behind-the-scenes of her creations. Between the shutter presses, we talked about the emotions and rituals associated with her jewelry, how she feels that creating and wearing special pieces can be an act of mindfulness to slow down and connect with a core part of oneself every day. We talked about family expectations, about losing and finding our artistic voice, and reconnecting with the joy of creating. I watched her work, in awe of the many different steps involved in designing and creating jewelry, and how different the process is from what I create.
Here are a few highlights from a wonderful morning in Andrea's studio!
If you love discovering and shopping directly from designers (rather than big box stores), I invite you to visit Andrea's website to learn more about her delicate jewelry, her inspirations and creation process.
If you're an artist in the Montreal area and would love to update some of your portrait or studio photos for social media or your website, contact me here to learn about my current promotion!
From my heart to yours,
So you've planned your next trip and chosen a destination that calls to you!
Here are 8 quick travel tips to make it a smooth and enjoyable trip that you'll remember long after you return home.
1. Be patient
Often, the best discoveries are those made when you least expect it (certainly not while you're rushing or stressed).
2. Buy tickets in advance for major attractions
It's such a great feeling to skip a massive line!
3. Take a metal water bottle with you
Staying hydrated is important, and a reusable bottle avoids plastic waste. Just don't fill it up until you're past security at their airport to avoid delays or them confiscating it!
4. Go food shopping
You'll learn more about local life if you shop and prepare your food rather than always eating out. You'll save some money too!
5. Have a copy of your passport and important cards on you
If you should ever lose your documents, having a copy can speed up replacing them, especially since we tend not to know our card numbers or other info by heart.
6. Vary your shoes
In case one pair gives your feet a hard time. Painful feet can be a real nuisance when traveling. Love your feet because they take you places!
7. Don't forget your battery pack
If your battery dies and you don't have access to a charger on the go, these inexpensive packs can save you and get you to the end of your day.
8. Be respectful of your surroundings
Remember that a place is not your personal playground. Respect the locals, nature, architecture, language, culture and any rules of the place you're visiting.
Got a tip to share too? Leave a comment below!
Dive right in:
I have always loved taking long exploratory walks around urban neighborhoods, no matter whether I have traveled to a faraway place or I am happily acting like a tourist in my own city. I don't necessarily always plan to collect photos, but they seem to be inevitable. The simple act of moving, observing and being in the moment fuels my creativity.
Knowing this, I have gotten into the habit of scheduling a seasonal "staycation" -- a mini vacation (sometimes just a day or two, sometimes a whole week) in my own city of Montreal, where I devote time to exploring different areas and appreciating how they change with the seasons.
In the mood to stretch my legs and to spend a little time outdoors with my camera, I signed up for one of the Photowalk Montreal group itineraries, organized by graphic artist and photographer Elodie Le Pape.
Every month or so, a new itinerary is proposed to explore a different facet of Montreal. Essentially, you meet up with a group of people on a Saturday and take a leisurely 2-hour walk together, snapping photos of whatever inspires you.
When I met up with about 24 strangers at metro Mont-Royal for that day's "Colors of the Plateau and Village" itinerary, I felt a bit outside my comfort zone. For me, photography is usually a solitary act. It is how I unwind, how I practice mindfulness, how I pay attention to my posture, and how I reflect on my way of seeing and feeling things in this world. When I travel, I usually carve out time to walk around with my camera on my own. If I'm in a group, I make mental notes of where to return to when I have more time to observe and experiment. Being such a solo photographer, I had no idea how it would feel for me to be part of a large group of photography-lovers. Would I keep the pace and find inspiration without feeling pressured? Would there be a lot of discussion and comparison? Would be end up with extremely similar photos?
What I quickly noticed when we set out on our photowalk was that the atmosphere was pleasantly informal and relaxed, such that you could make the experience whatever you wanted it to be. For this group, it doesn't matter if you're a beginner or an expert, if you have a cell phone or fancy gear, or if you simply feel like going for a stroll (thus totally ditching the "photo" part of a "photowalk"). You can take your time (as long as you don't lose the group), and be as talkative or as quietly focused as you wish. If city photography is not your thing, you are totally free to take portrait photos with a buddy, while scouting out interesting backdrops for future photoshoots.
I admit that it was still an odd sight to watch 25 people silently fill a narrow street and spread out into different directions like ants infiltrating a space! Some photographers were much more assertive than I was, climbing residents' staircases for better views, getting really up close and personal with their subjects.
I stayed true to my usual style -- looking for unique compositions and details that highlight colors, textures and that celebrate the ordinary. I appreciated that there was room for every type of photographer, and that the photos would reflect our individual styles, in the end.
The highlight of the photowalk was to discover a couple of charming streets that I had not yet explored. I was so glad to have done something outside of my creative comfort zone. It was a refreshing exercise to try something new but to still find my unique perspective and style within that new experience.
Since the photowalk, I have enjoyed a few leisurely walks on the Plateau, Little Italy and around the Parc Olympique, taking in the miracles of spring. It always astonishes me how a little bit of time outside, away from my screen and phone, can refresh my mind and spirit. (Though, between you and me, it can be a little overwhelming to come home to hundreds of new images to sort and process!)
I am often asked for advice for beginner photographers, and I almost always say this: take long walks and practice. Whether you join an organized photowalk for a structured itinerary, or you just weave in and out of streets on a whim, you are sure to find inspiration if you are open to it. Once something makes you slow your step, capture it in different ways -- different angles and compositions will tell a different story, and different camera settings will teach you about light. Finally, always look with your eyes first. Especially when the goal of the walk is to take pictures, it's easy to become a hurried collector and snap, snap, snap. Slow down, relax your shoulders, look at the scene and pay attention to how it makes you feel. What draws your eye naturally? Try to recreate that with your lens.
But, most of all: have fun. No matter how your photos turn out, at least you've taken a nice walk through town!
Tell me: Have you ever been on a photowalk? How was your experience?
Imagine creating a home for yourself and your family that feels cozy, stylish and representative of your tastes, without breaking the bank.
Imagine feeling that interior design does not have to be a daunting task, and that a beautiful space can be achieved with a few creative ideas, helpful tips and tricks, and original finds from independent businesses.
That is precisely what Kat Mannell offers us with her inspiring interior design blog and Instagram account "Life at Number 63".
Based in the UK, Kat left her job as an interior design assistant for the affluent and decided to show home enthusiasts that it is unnecessary to spend endless amounts on designer labels and bespoke items to create a perfect home. She is also a passionate advocate for small businesses and handmade items.
Kat thoughtfully renovated her Victorian home to create a stylish Scandinavian-inspired interior on a budget. Only 18 months after the start of her journey, her audience has grown to almost 60 thousand followers, with whom she shares her unique finds, favorite brands, inspiring color schemes, interior trends and design tricks.
What is special about "Life at Number 63" on Instagram is that Kat takes us through her space at least twice a day, showing us different angles and different ways of styling the rooms. In fact, Kat proves that a decor need not be set in stone! Kat embraces change at home, switching the color scheme and decor frequently.
"I live in the moment, and if I feel like a room or part of a room isn't making me happy anymore, then I change it. I like to shop my home as well as buying new things, as even moving around furniture or accessories can make an area feel fresh."
Her two little girls Ruby and Molly also embrace a changing decor like their Mum.
"They are used to it! I think that, since we have lived in the same house all their lives, they are very settled children, and so a few colour changes or new items don't daunt them at all."
Kat describes her home style as "scandi, hygge and botanical".
She loves clean lines, soft pinks and Scandinavian-inspired furniture and accessories.
There isn't a spot of the house that is hidden from our view - we can admire every corner, and sometimes Kat takes us on a tour of the layout in her Instagram Stories.
"It's not a large house, but I try to be creative with my shots, and actually photograph every angle and corner possible!"
Her personal favorite spot at home is simply her side of the bed. "I layer it up with blankets, turn my air diffuser and string lights on and curl up with a book and a cup of tea. Bliss!"
Other than showcasing her own space and guiding others in their home decor projects with her helpful blog articles, Kat also hosts an Instagram challenge she created under the hashtag "#spotthenewtrend", with prizes to be won. "I base the theme on current and future trends, and people use the hashtag on their posts containing that theme, and I share their posts on my stories. There are now over 18000 posts to the hashtag, which I'm thrilled with!"
Kat shares her surprise about the online community she has discovered. "There are so many people whose home is a huge part of their lives, and who want to make a cozy, inviting space to share with friends and family".
Aside from her work as an interior blogger and influencer, Kat is also the owner of the online shop Art House Illustration, where she sells her custom house portraits as prints.
When we talked about how she juggles her numerous projects, passions, collaborations and parenting, Kat confessed that keeping up with it all can sometimes be a challenge. "I have to be organized (which isn't my strong suit if I'm honest). I make a list of things to do at the start of the week, even down to small details and then work my way through them. If it all stays in my head, then sometimes I can feel a little stressed. List making is definitely key!"
Although Kat is grateful for the huge community support she surprisingly experienced, she attributes her success to her persistence in following her dream. "Just believe in yourself and go for it," she advises fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs. "I really wanted Instagram and my blog to succeed, and I have put in many hours and late nights, which has often been exhausting, but it's always worth it in the end."
Follow Kat over on "Life at Number 63" on her blog and Instagram to discover her home and her affordable tips and tricks to creating a unique home you adore!
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The Spring Show organized by the Collectif Créatif Etsy Montréal is one of the highlights of my year.
Hosted in the historic Locoshop Angus, the show gathers a curated selection of 100+ high-quality local brands (artists, designers, makers) in various categories, ranging from jewelry, to paper goods, home decor, gourmet food, baby stuff, skin care, fashion accessories and more!
It's impossible not to fall in love with something. Try, I dare you!
If you missed this epic spring show, do not fret. The Collectif Créatif Etsy Montréal will be hosting at least 4 more shows in 2019, with different vendors each and every time. In fact, the team truly prides itself of offering a different mix of brands to shoppers each time. If you don't want to miss any, your best bet is to follow the page on Facebook for updates!
I really enjoyed snapping these photos of the event, although it was challenging to navigate the huge crowds at times! Do you recognize any of your favorite brands?
Have you ever been? Is that where you and I met? Leave a comment and let me know!
Whenever I exhibit at shows and markets, you tell me that you have a thing with doors and windows too. They attract your eye, make you pause to take photos, make you want to display them in your home.
Doors and windows are portals into a world we can only imagine. Curious in nature, we wonder what lies beyond them, hidden on the other side. I especially love it when they are half open, inviting and mysterious.
This week's series is devoted to the mysterious allure of windows and doors of the world.
Which is your favorite?
Share your photos and thoughts with me over on Instagram. I'd love to connect with you!
From my heart to yours.
My Mom loves this print.
She was with me in northern Italy when I took this photograph. She initially hadn't realized I had stopped in my tracks during our late morning stroll. What had caught my eye? The parked bicycle, of course, but also the texture of the wall and the gentle morning light. It was almost lunchtime, said the echoing church bells. It was such a beautiful spring day, full of love and promise. and fresh Italian lakeside air.
Maybe your Mom also loves bicycles, simple scenes, life in Italy. Or maybe YOU do. Who knows. "Bicicletta" is in my shop for whoever might be inspired by her.
Try it on paper or canvas to showcase the texture of the scene.
From my heart to yours.
Every season, I like to take a stroll in my hometown of Montreal to see what inspires me and my lens. It's a way to unwind, to look at my everyday surroundings with a different perspective, and it simply feels good to get up and move with no set itinerary or destination.
Strolling through the Plateau streets last summer, I was enchanted by this detail.
If I were to zoom out, I would have photographed two neighboring houses. But it's this zoomed in composition that felt most compelling to me, especially in a square ration that enhanced its symmetry and contrast.
I named this one "Tango", because of how two contrasting halves can still mingle and complement one another, dancing harmoniously as a pair. I love the vibrant colors of the brick, the way the phone line traces a boundary between the adjacent' homes, but how the twisting vine doesn't seem to care about any boundaries whatsoever.
"Tango" has always been special to me, not only because of its composition and color, but because it sort of represents the many areas of life where it's not about choosing to be one or the other, it's not all or nothing, it's beautifully, wildly, paradoxically both.
Tell me: Has anything in your neighborhood made you stop in your tracks? Do your everyday surroundings inspire you too?
Have a mindful Monday, friends!
I am frequently asked to give workshops or "tips" on how to achieve better photos. If you have been following me for a while, you know that the aspect of photography that I am most passionate about is composition and storytelling. The technical stuff is plenty fascinating and important (no one likes blurry or underexposed photos!), but the art of observing is key to photography. The technical elements can be mastered with resources and practice. The passion for observation comes from within.
If I had to give only ONE tip, it would be to practice observing - to take photos without fear or self-judgment, just for the sake of observing, experimenting and learning. This tip is a valuable one for beginners and professional photographers. It is ultimately what allows photographs to convey feeling.
But today, I'm not giving you just one tip. I'm giving you 10. Here are some of my "photography mantras", which I practice daily.
1. Notice details
There is so much beauty in the ordinary. Still-life painters had the right idea to glorify the mundane! Celebrate the daily details that draw your eye. Look for patterns, lines, shadows and textures, and study how they change with the changing light. What treasure will you uncover?
2. Take several variations of the same shot
Once you pinpoint what you want to photograph, give yourself the assignment of photographing it in at least 5 different ways. Vary the composition: include and exclude different parts of the scene. Vary the ratio: Apply the rule of two-thirds, then take a symmetrical photo. Try both a horizontal and vertical version. Vary your focus and make different elements of the scene stand out. Follow your subject as they move through the frame. It will be painstaking to review and compare these variations later, but oftentimes one of them really makes you say: "A-ha!" and it may not be the one you expected.
3. Move your body
Photography is a sport! You think inspiration will just come to you? Nope. Sometimes you have to get on your knees or risk your life on a precarious stool or circle around a spot peering into a puddle for a reflection. Jokes aside, testing out different vantage points, no matter the type of photography, will present perspectives you otherwise would have missed.
4. Look first - and keep both eyes open
When we wanderlusters travel, we feel awe. Our senses get flooded, overwhelmed. We feel all sorts of emotions and want to bottle them up and keep them in our pocket forever. Although it seems effective to snap, snap, snap away, there is a lot of value in refraining from snapping and looking with our eyes first. What naturally draws our eye without the viewfinder? Is there an underlying story or feeling? When you do grab your camera, be sure to keep both eyes open, i.e., don't shut the one that is not looking through the viewfinder. This will keep you connected to the scene. It will also allow you to monitor anything peripheral to your frame that you may want to include, or that may intercept your shot.
5. Look behind you
Ah, we are such go-getters. We are always so focused on looking ahead of us and moving on from where we have been, but sometimes, the best treasures lie behind us. Look over your shoulder. Anything worth pausing for?
6. Know your camera
Here's a technical tip, albeit a broad one. Whatever device you choose to work with, whether it is a phone, an entry-level camera or a pro camera, use the technical manual and get to know its features to use it at its optimal capacity. That way, you will know when you have outgrown it and are ready to upgrade.
7. Make room for surprises
In any photographic style (travel, portrait or event photography), the most memorable shots are usually the unplanned and candid ones. Give yourself time and flexibility for the shot to come to you. Plant yourself, wait for magic and be quick to capture it.
8. Create a sense of depth
When composing your shot, enhance the sense of depth by making sure the eye is drawn from the foreground to the background. You can achieve this by using leading lines that propel our gaze deeper into the scene, using a wider angle, or changing your perspective to emphasize some of the background elements. A greater sense of depth makes the viewer feel more connected to the photograph, as though they are in the scene itself.
9. Focus on the eyes
Whenever we look at a portrait photograph, we look at the eyes immediately. Everything else is secondary. For that reason, make sure you focus on your subject's eyes before framing your shot.
10. Break the rules
You know what they say: rules are meant to be broken. Sometimes reading up on the do's and don'ts makes you feel like experimenting with all the don'ts! When you break the rules, you also break expectations, which allows you to stand out. But, most importantly: have fun with photography. Use it as a form of self-exploration and self-expression, and let the rest follow.
Did you enjoy these tips? Got a tip of your own to share? Leave a comment and let me know!
Thanks for stopping by! #OnTheBlog are the stories behind my prints, posts about my travels, glimpses into my daily life, news about my shop, events in the Montreal community and tips on travel, home and photography.
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